Do I need a queen?

We raise great local queens and we can deliver them to you or you can pick up, but we only want to get you a queen if you need her.

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Getting a new healthy queen can save a colony that is failing, and can gentle a colony that is defensive, either because of a failing queen or because of genetics.  Our fresh, well-mated local queens  can be better adapted to our climate than queens from other regions, and can be picked up and in your colony the day you realize you need one.

How do you know if you need a new queen?  Here are some indications that you are having a problem, although some of these problems can be from other causes than failing or missing queens.  I know this is a complicated subject, especially for someone encountering it for the first time, and I hope to flesh out this list eventually.  If you have an experienced mentor, it would pay to talk the situation over.

Observing from outside the hive–

Fewer bees on landing board

Bees not bringing in pollen

Many drones on landing board

Robbing bees

Bees are defensive

You are splitting the colony, or taking a nuc out of the colony

 Observing inside the hive–

No brood

Only covered brood and no uncovered brood

Multiple eggs in each cell, and not in center of bottom of cell  (Multiple eggs can be ok if a brand new queen)

Bees are testy

Sound of queenless colony different from the calm buzz of a  queenright colony

Supercedure cells

Swarm preparations (this can be a queen problem, but the solution may not be requeening)

Spotty brood–shot brood

Drones growing in worker cells or brood is all drones

Indications that you might not need a queen or your queen introduction will not succeed:

1.  Is your colony really queenless?  If it already has a queen they are likely to reject (kill) a new queen.

a.  When  a colony is about to swarm or has swarmed it may not have eggs.  They slim down the old queen and she stops laying, and the replacement queen may not have started laying yet.  So there may be covered brood but no young brood and no eggs, but there still may be a queen present.

b.  If a queen has failed and they are raising a new queen there will be little brood and no eggs.  Look for a queen cell somewhere.  If there is a virgin queen which has emerged and they have torn down the cell she emerged from it will be very hard to tell.

2.  Does it have no brood?

a.  Brood emits a pheromone, and a broodless hive is likely to reject a  new queen.  You need a new queen, but you need to move a frame of brood, including eggs, from another hive.  Still, no guarantee it will work…

b.  If the colony is broodless, it may not have young nurse bees, and adhering nurse bees should be moved to the colony with the frame of young brood.

b.  Observe the frame of open brood that you have put in a couple of days later.  If they do not try to make a new queen cell, there is likely a queen somewhere.

3.  Is it “hopelessly queenless”?

Sometimes a colony has gotten so small and broodless that no effort is likely to save it.  In this case, it is best to combine it into another colony, e.g. by the newspaper method.

4.  Laying workers

Worker bees are infertile females.  In the absence of a queen the ovaries of some workers will develop and they will start laying eggs.  These eggs will all be male, and cannot save the colony.  On the other hand, the laying workers secrete small amounts of queen-like pheromones, and in aggregate will trigger the queenright response from the other workers, leading them to reject a new queen.  This is a difficult situation to overcome.  The colony can be combined with a queenright colony by the newspaper method, and after a time the resulting colony, if populous enough, can be split and a new queen introduced to the split.

Maybe you want to let them do it themselves?

If your colony has a good looking supersedure cell an alternative is to wait and let the new queen emerge and get mated.  This is “letting the colony requeen itself” and it’s the way they did it without us!  But reducing your population through not having new emerging workers for another month might be inadvisable.

If what you have is swarm cells, you might use a cell for splitting off a new nuc.  It is not a good idea to let swarm cells go to term because you will lose half your population, but it is out of the range of this discussion to go into what to do if you have a pre-swarm situation .

I know it’s impossible to cover this subject thoroughly in this short page, but hopefully I’ve helped you get closer to figuring out what to do.

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Also see  About Queens, and Introducing Your Queen.

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